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Chiswick House And Gardens

I had not been intending to write about Chiswick House and Gardens for today’s post. I had been planning to write about one my father’s photos, one showing a street with the open space remaining from the clearance of bombed buildings. I tracked down the street and found gardens occupying the space where I thought the bombed buildings had been, however when I started writing the post, I checked the photos in more detail, aligned with some old maps, including the LCC Bomb Damage Maps, and found I had taken photos of the wrong end of the street.

I usually get the location right before I visit, however this time I missed some obvious architectural features which I should have seen whilst walking the street.

I will need to go back and photo the correct part of the street, so for today I have fallen back on a recent trip out to Chiswick, to visit Chiswick House and Gardens.

Chiswick House and Gardens are found just to the west of the Hogarth roundabout, between two busy roads, the A4 which runs out to the M4 motorway and the A316 which runs to the south west and crosses the River Thames over Chiswick Bridge. It is a busy and densely built area of west London.

The original Chiswick House was constructed in the 1620s, at a time when country houses were being built in the area, to take advantage of the benefits of being relatively close to London with the river providing access to the City.

The house was inherited by Richard Boyle, the 3rd Earl of Burlington in 1715. At the same time he also inherited Burlington House in Piccadilly, which became his London house.

Rather than use the house in Chiswick as a family residence, he planned to build a new house where he could use the architectural inspiration from his Grand Tours of Europe, and would also house the collections he had gathered touring Europe and where he could entertain.

The new house was built between 1726 and 1729, just to the north west of the original house.

Work on the gardens continued until the 1740s and the inspiration for many of the buildings that were distributed around the gardens would also come from his experiences during the Grand Tours. The Grand Tour was part of the education of an 18th century aristocrat, with months travelling through France, Germany and Italy to provide experience of the major European cultures. The majority of these tours would have Italy as their main destination. The tours were also used to build collections and many aristocratic residences of the time would be full of purchases made during the Grand Tour.

Chiswick House and Gardens passed through generations of the Dukes of Devonshire after Richard Boyle’s death in 1753. The 5th Duke demolished the original 17th century Chiswick House. The 6th Duke of Devonshire made significant changes to the gardens in 1811 with the purchase of additional land and the construction of formal gardens and the large conservatory.

Use of the house changed during the later years of the 19th century. The house was let to a number of different tenants and for a period was used as a lunatic asylum.

In 1929, Chiswick House and Gardens were sold by the 9th Duke of Devonshire to Middlesex County Council who opened the gardens as a public park.

After the war, the house was in need of serious restoration and whilst the gardens remained with the council, the house passed to the Ministry of Works in 1948.

Today, the house and gardens are managed by the Chiswick House and Gardens Trust, set-up by the London Borough of Hounslow and English Heritage.

The gardens are free to enter, and despite some of the land being sold over the years as Chiswick land was needed for building, there are still 65 acres of gardens to explore with many of the original features from the time of Richard Boyle, the 3rd Earl of Burlington.

English Heritage manage the house and charge a fee for entry. Unfortunately there are also signs banning photography inside the house. Walking the house, it is clear it was not designed as a home, but does provide a series of rooms designed for the display or art and sculpture, and there are still a significant number of works on display today.

If you enter from the entrance along the A316, Burlington Lane, this is the view of the house:

Chiswick House

The same view of the house in 1796.

Chiswick House

The following photo shows the rear of the house:

Chiswick House

Slightly to the side of the above photo is a long walkway leading up to the rear of the house:

Chiswick House

The following view from around 1770 shows the rear of the house with the lawns lined with large urns atop pedestals – much as can be seen in the gardens today.

Chiswick House

In the photo of the rear of the house shown above, steps can be seen leading up to a gallery from which the following view was drawn in around 1770.

Chiswick House

In the above view, a set of statues can be seen set in the hedge that forms the end of the large open area at the rear of the house.

I do not know if they are the same statues, however in the same place today, statues can be found in alcoves cut into the hedge at the far end of the lawns at the rear of the house.

Chiswick House

The Ionic Temple seen from across the lake. The design of the gardens incorporates long walks with a building, obelisk, or some other feature which can be seen the full length of the walk.

Chiswick House

Artists easels with 18th century views from the same spot can be found across the gardens. A very imaginative feature, and it is easy to picture an 18th century artist sitting at the same place, drawing the same view.

Chiswick House

The view looking down one of the walks with an obelisk in frount of the gate at the Burlington Lane entrance.

Chiswick House

A large artificial river runs across the full length of the gardens from the north west to the south east. Towards the north western end of the lake is this classically designed bridge.

Chiswick House

The view looking along the length of the river towards the south eastern end of the gardens from the bridge.

Chiswick House

And the view from the opposite side of the bridge.

Chiswick House

Standing on the bridge and looking at the views along the lake it is hard to believe that this is west London, however there is a constant reminder of where we are in the sky overhead. Chiswick House is a short distance from Heathrow Airport and under one of the flight paths and on the day I was there, a continuous procession of aircraft flew overhead coming into land.

Chiswick House

But the wildlife on the lake seems blissfully unaware of the planes flying overhead.

Chiswick House

The amphitheater, another obelisk and the Ionic temple.

Chiswick House

A statue of Venus rising above the trees atop a doric column.

Chiswick House

The gardens are also home to a rather large conservatory. Built by the 6th Duke of Devonshire in 1813, the building is 302 feet in length.

Chiswick House

During the later years of the 20th century, the conservatory was almost derelict and the collection of rare camellia trees housed in the conservatory was in serious danger. Considerable restoration work was carried out, completed in 2010 and the conservatory today looks magnificent.

The view from the conservatory to the formal gardens.

Chiswick House

The camellia collection that runs the length of the conservatory is considered of international importance. The collection includes some trees surviving from the Duke of Devonshire’s original collection. The camellia trees were all dense green leaves during my visit, but must look magnificent when in flower.

Chiswick House

Inside the conservatory are two Coade stone vases. These were originally outside the conservatory, alongside steps leading down to the gardens. They were manufactured at the Coade stone factory in Lambeth, on the southbank of the river by Westminster Bridge.

Chiswick House

The Inigo Jones Gateway, on the pathway between the conservatory and the house.

Chiswick House

A walk around Chickwick House and Gardens provides a wonderful break from the busy city streets and if it were not for the planes flying into Heathrow, you could be walking through a country park set in the countryside rather than west London.

Chiswick House and Gardens are a short distance from Hogarth’s House, and a visit to both provides a snapshot of 18th century Chiswick.

Now to find the time to go back and photograph the correct end of a London street.

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Faulkner’s Alley, Cowcross Street

Cowcross Street runs from just north of Smithfield Market, past Farringdon Station where the street becomes Turnmill Street and then continues up to Clerkenwell Road. All these streets have a fascinating history, however for today’s post I want to focus on a single alley, Faulkner’s Alley which can be found in Cowcross Street just before reaching Farringdon Station.

My father took the following three photos of Faulkner’s Alley in 1947:

Faulkner's Alley

As I work through my father’s photos I am more and more convinced that I should switch back to black and white film. The combination of getting the lighting right, and black and white is perfect for this type photography.

Faulkner's Alley

In the above photo there is a sign reading “M&V Coenca – First Floor”. I assume this refers to a business, but I have been unable to find any details of their trade.

I am fascinated by the placing of the chair, what I assume to be a pram and the street lamp.

Faulkner's Alley

Faulkner’s Alley runs between Cowcross Street and Benjamin Street, although originally it was much longer. To find the Cowcross Street entrance, walk past the entrance to Farringdon Station towards Smithfield Market and a short distance after the Castle pub is the gated entrance to Faulkner’s Alley.

Faulkner's Alley

The entrance looks as if it is a pedestrian entrance to the same area as the much larger entrance on the right, however there is a wall running back between the two entrances so they are completely separate entrances.

Unfortunately the gate was locked during my visit, so all I could get was a view through the gate showing a similar alley to that in my father’s photos.

Faulkner's Alley

The following extract from the 1895 Ordnance Survey map shows Faulkner’s Alley in the centre of the map, between Cowcross Street and Benjamin Street. If you follow across Benjamin Street, there is a continuation of an alley indicating that Faulkner’s Alley probably once extended much further.

Faulkner's Alley

As the entrance in Cowcross Street was locked I walked round to Benjamin Street to see if the entrance there was open, as in the past it has always been possible to walk through the alley.

Faulkner's Alley

However I was rather shocked by what I found. The southern side of Benjamin Street is now a building site.

Faulkner's Alley

Which extends a considerable distance along the street. Just here on the right is where the entrance to Faulkner’s Alley was once located.

Faulkner's Alley

It was a similar gated entrance to the one in Cowcross Street, with the same style of ironwork and name above the gate.

I had a look at the planning applications on the Islington Council web site and found the application relating to the building work in Benjamin Street.

The application covers the demolition of the existing buildings and the build of a 6 storey building on Turnmill Street and 5 storey building on Benjamin Street, with both buildings being linked by a 4 storey building. The new building will comprise retail, office and 4 residential units.

The plans show Faulkner’s Alley will still run from Cowcross Street to Benjamin Street and there will be a gate onto Benjamin Street as part of the new build. Along the alley will be a courtyard and residential reception. I wonder with the new development whether Faulkner’s Alley will continue to accessible to the public or with the new residential and office build, it will only be accessible to those living or working in the buildings.

The site is owned by the Girdlers’ Company (one of the City’s livery companies) so hopefully Faulkner’s Alley will have a restoration that recognises its history and as a public alley, although I do worry when I read on the architects’ web site that the alley will be “enhanced” as part of the project.

Along the wooden hoarding, there is a small display of excavation findings which include some Tudor brick, medieval tiles and clay pipes:

Faulkner's Alley

We can get an impression of Faulkner’s Alley in previous centuries from newspaper reports. Some examples:

From the London City Press on the 9th April 1864 in an article on overcrowding in the city:

“I may mention that I found one family with but two moderate sized rooms, in Faulkner’s Alley, had taken in six railway navvies as lodgers. Even if they spend little more time in-doors than what they require for sleep, that is time enough to breed a fever, as was the case in this instance, for one of the lodgers had been prostrated by typhus fever, and sent by the Union authorities to the Fever Hospital.”

From the Islington Gazette on the 9th July 1877:

“A SINGULAR CASE – Dr. Hardwicke held an inquest at the St. Andrew’s Board Room, Great James-street, Holborn, on Friday, concerning the death of a newly-born male child, which was found on a doorstep in Faulkner’s-alley, Clerkenwell, and for which a woman of the name of Mohan is under remand, charged on suspicion with having deposited the child. The facts in connection with this case were reported in the proceedings at the Clerkenwell Police-court, and it will be remembered that on Tuesday night, about 10 o’clock, a constable stated that he saw the woman in question go into Faulkner’s-alley and stoop down, but whether she placed anything on a doorstep he could not say. Upon going up the alley a short time afterwards, however, a brown-paper parcel containing the body of a child much decomposed was found. The woman Mohan denied that she knew anything about the child, and the jury returned a verdict that the child was found dead in a state of decomposition, and that the evidence was insufficient to show the cause of death. They also added that they were of the opinion that the police were in error in charging Sarah Mohan.”

The London City Press on the 5th September 1863 included an article titled “Old Smithfield and its Precincts – A Sanitary and Antiquarian Ramble” where the author took a walk around the area and described what he saw, including this description of Faulkner’s Alley:

“Passing up Cowcross-street to Smithfield-bars, there are some quaint houses and shops. Part of the frounts in Faulkner’s-alley are of wood, and are worth notice.  And here, as well as in some other confined places where the people are very poor, there are, considering the situations, wonderful displays of window plants and flowers. We would, however, just hint that in some instances the windows are so crowded with drooping and other greenery, that it interferes to a great extent with the proper admission of light and with ventilation.”

A report in the Pall Mall Gazette on the 4th September 1878 on the Princess Alice disaster, when the steamboat the Princess Alice was rammed by the collier Bywell Castle near Woolwich, included a list of the survivors, one of which was Mary Brent of Faulkner’s Alley. There was no accurate record of the number on board the steamer, or the number that died, however the Pall Mall Gazette reported that between 700 and 800 people were on board, and the number dead or missing was in the order of 700 – so Mary Brent was one of the few, very lucky, survivors.

The book “London – Alleys, Byways and Courts” by Alan Stapleton, published in 1924, also includes a brief description of Faulkner’s Alley:

“A few yards past here on the left, by No. 31, is the alley with the wooden frontage, with its name, Faulkner’s Alley, at the top. This old wooden front dates from about 1660 when the alley was formed, and built in.”

The book also includes the following drawing of the entrance to Faulkner’s Alley from Cow Cross Street:

Faulkner's Alley

We can trace the development of the alley over the centuries. In 1746 Faulkner’s Alley was shown in John Rocque’s map:

Faulkner's Alley

In Rocque’s map, the alley extended across Benjamin Street into what is now the edge of St. John’s Gardens. The map also provides a clue to the origin of the name.

In 1746 Rocque labelled the alley Faulconers Alley which may possibly have some reference to the Falcon bird, as Faulcon was an early spelling for the bird, a name with French origins, and the word Faulconer was given to the person who would look after the birds. I have not been able to find any written reference as to why this name should have been used for the alley.

Going back further, Ogilby’s map of 1676 shows the alley as a much longer alley. Unfortunately Ogilby does not provide the name of the alley as it would be interesting to see if the name was the same as in 1746.

Faulkner's Alley

Faulkner’s Alley was a good example of the type of alley that was once so common across the city. My father’s photos from 1947 show the alley much as it must have been during the 19th century and possibly earlier – a narrow alley with tall, brick-built buildings lining the alley occupied by people and businesses.

I hope that when the building on Benjamin Street is complete, Faulkner’s Alley is open again and that whatever “enhancement” has been made during building work, Faulkner’s Alley retains much of its original character.

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St. Chad’s Place And A Lost Well

There are places in London where the subterranean history of the city touches the surface and it is easy to imagine finding long lost geological features beneath the city streets.

This post is about one such place that I found whilst hunting for the location of this photo that my father took in 1986:

St. Chad's Place

My 2018 photo of the same location:

St. Chad's Place

I am in King’s Cross Road, a street that runs from Pentonville Road to Farringdon Road. The building was the location of Dodds the Printers in 1986 who occupied numbers 193 and 195.

I am not sure when the business closed in King’s Cross Road, however I believe it was relatively recently. The shop front has changed and the lovely signage above the shop has disappeared, however the terrace of 19th century buildings are much the same.

On the right side of both photos is an alley disappearing through the buildings. This is St. Chad’s Place. The following extract from OpenStreetMap shows the location. St. Chad’s Place can be seen running left to right in the middle of the map – suitable for vehicles to just after crossing the rail lines where it turns into a pedestrian alley, with a sharp bend and a narrow stretch running up to King’s Cross Road.

St. Chad's Place

This is the type of view I love – a small alley to explore:

St. Chad's Place

Walking into St. Chad’s Place from King’s Cross Road, you first pass through the terrace lining King’s Cross Road before continuing down a narrow stretch between high brick walls.

Looking back towards King’s Cross Road:

St. Chad's Place

At the end of the narrow stretch, the alley does a 90 degree bend and opens out slightly:

St. Chad's Place

This is the view back down the alley with the buildings lining King’s Cross Road in the distance:

St. Chad's Place

The alley passes a number of old brick, industrial buildings, gently rising in height. Half way along the alley there are high metal walls. This is where St. Chad’s Place passes over a railway.

St. Chad's Place

It is just possible to peer over the top of the metal walls and look at the railway beneath. This is the original Metropolitan Railway, built between 1859 and 1862, which ran from Paddington to Farringdon.

The railway was built below street level, using a mix of cut and cover, as well as leaving the railway in an open cutting, as in the stretch that passes underneath St. Chad’s Place.

The route today is used by Thameslink trains and the London Underground Circle, Metropolitan and Hammersmith and City lines. In the following photo, looking south towards Farringdon is a Thameslink train, with the red of an underground train just visible to the upper right.

St. Chad's Place

The railway cuts a wide path between King’s Cross and Farringdon, but for the most part is not that visible. Walking along King’s Cross Road or Gray’s Inn Road, you would not know there is a railway running close by, it is only when you walk through the streets between these major roads that you pass over, and get a view of the cutting through this part of the city.

This is the view looking north from St. Chad’s Place where the railway runs into King’s Cross, St. Pancras underground station:

St. Chad's Place

The building of the railway must have been very disruptive to the area. Streets were cut off and before construction of the railway could start, demolition of hundreds of houses, factories, warehouses and workshops was required.

The following print shows the building of the railway near King’s Cross:

St. Chad's Place

Walking up towards Gray’s Inn Road, this is the view back down St. Chad’s Place. A narrow, cobbled roadway in the centre, sloping down to where the blue metal wall of the railway can be seen on the right.

St. Chad's Place

The black sign on the left is for Meat Liquor bar and restaurant, probably the main reason for anyone to walk down St. Chad’s Place. Apart from the person sitting outside the restaurant, I did not see anyone else walk through for the whole time I was in St. Chad’s Place.

At the top is the junction with Gray’s Inn Road.

St. Chad's Place

A walk through St. Chad’s Place is a glimpse of the many old alleys that once ran between major streets (I will be writing about one that is in the process of disappearing in a future post), and the view of the railway provides an insight into what is just below London’s surface, however, as usual, there is always more to discover.

Starting with the name, St. Chad’s Place, this is an indication of what was once here.

The route of the River Fleet was once alongside where King’s Cross Road now runs, and the geology of the area gave rise to a number of springs at Bagnigge Wells, Clerks’ Well (Clerkenwell), and a St. Chad’s Well. All running close to the River Fleet.

St. Chad’s Well was to be found at the junction of St. Chad’s Place and Gray’s Inn Road.

The well was very popular in the middle of the 18th century, with around 1,000 visitors a week travelling along Gray’s Inn Road to take the waters.

The following advert from the 29th May 1807 edition of the Morning Advertiser gives an impression of how St. Chad’s Well was sold to Londoners:

“St. Chad’s Wells – Health restored and preserved, by drinking the Battle-Bridge Waters, commonly called St. Chad’s Wells, formerly dedicated to St. Chad, first Bishop of Lichfield. These Waters are recommended by the most eminent Physicians as the best Purging Waters in England, they are found highly efficacious in removing all Complaints which affect the Urinary Passages such as Stone, Gravel, etc, They likewise cure the Scurvy, Bile, Worms, Piles, Indigestion, Nervous Complaints, Seminal Weaknesses, and various other Disorders too numerous for an advertisement. Several attestations of their wonderful Effects may be seen in the Pump room.

N.B. These Waters may be drank every morning, at 4d each Person, or delivered at the Pump-Room at 8d per gallon. The Gate leading to the Wells opens at the end of Gray’s Inn-lane Road, near the Turnpike.”

The name Battle-Bridge Waters refers to the Battle Bridge, a brick arched bridge over the River Fleet just north of St. Chad’s Place. The name Battle Bridge is often taken to refer to a battle fought here between Boadicea and the Roman army, however this is very unlikely as the name in medieval manorial court rolls was Bradeford Bridge.

Chad refers to a 7th century Mercian churchman who founded the first monastery in Lichfield. St. Chad allegedly preached at Stowe, just outside the centre of Lichfield , and a medieval St. Chad’s Church was built at Stowe along with a holy well with St. Chad’s name. This association with a well could be why the well in Gray’s Inn Road took St. Chad’s name – a more virtuous, health promoting name than Battle Bridge.

The following print from 1850 show the St. Chad’s Well pump house, built close to Gray’s Inn Road. At the rear of the house, gardens stretched back towards King’s Cross Road.

St. Chad's Place

By the time of the above print, the well was declining in popularity. I cannot find exactly when St. Chad’s Well closed, however St. Chad’s Place was built over part of the garden in 1830 and the majority of the gardens were lost in 1860 when the Metropolitan Line was built. I suspect it was the building of the railway which finally swept away the well.

Now this is where this post starts to get very speculative.

I am sure though of the route of the River Fleet. I have checked a number of sources, including the book “The Lost Rivers of London” by Nicholas Barton and Stephen Myers (a well researched and illustrated history of London’s lost rivers and their routes through the city) as well as “The History of the River Fleet” by the UCL River Fleet Restoration Team, and they all show the River Fleet running along the western edge of King’s Cross Road, under where St. Chad’s Place meets King’s Cross Road.

The River Fleet is also shown on the OpenStreetMap extract, running parallel to King’s Cross Road.

St. Chad’s Place descends very gradually as you head from Gray’s Inn Road towards King’s Cross Road, which could be expected for a spring rising near Gray’s Inn Road running through the gardens of the pump-room and down to the River Fleet.

As I walked along St. Chad’s Place, the sunlight glinting off running water below a small grating in the middle of the cobbled street caught my eye.

It was hard to judge the depth, but it must have been around 10 to 15 feet below the road surface. It looked to be a fast flow of clean water, and yes I did take a sniff and it did not smell like a sewer.

St. Chad's Place

I have no evidence to support this, apart from the view through the grating, however it is interesting to imagine that perhaps the waters of the St. Chad’s Well still rise here, and run along St. Chad’s Place, heading towards the River Fleet.

They would now be cut off by the cutting made for the Metropolitan Railway, however perhaps there is a pipe that carries them across, or a separate sewer that runs along the western edge of the railway.

Walking back towards King’s Cross Road, and where St. Chad’s Place passes through the building facing King’s Cross Street, there is a run of old paving slabs, and an old manhole cover.

St. Chad's Place

This is exactly where the River Fleet is shown to run parallel to Kings Cross Road.

If you walk past 193 and 195 King’s Cross Road, take a detour into St. Chad’s Place. Walk up to Gray’s Inn Road and you will cross the River Fleet, the original Metropolitan Railway and the site of St. Chad’s Well – not bad for a couple of minutes walk.

And with some imagination, perhaps you will also see the waters of St. Chad’s Well still running beneath a small, four hole grating.

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New Deal For East London – Stepney Green

I am still working through the locations featured in the 1973 Architects’ Journal “New Deal for East London” special issue where a range of locations, deemed to be at possible risk from future development were identified.

My first post on this subject with the full background to the 1973 article can be found here.

For today’s post I am in Mile End and Stepney Green, tracing the sites numbered 44 to 48, 61 and 62 as shown in the following map extract from the 1973 article (I covered site 46, the church of St. Dunstan’s a couple of weeks ago).

Stepney Green

The Architects’ Journal identified Stepney as a Medieval Village Centre, but one that had been absorbed by the growth of east London over the past couple of centuries. I have reproduced the same locations in an up to date map, shown below, from OpenStreetMap.

Stepney Green

There is so much history in this area that a much longer post is needed to cover fully, so my focus for today is seeing how many of the 1973 Architects’ Journal locations remain, and their current condition.

My first location was in Mile End Road:

Site 44 – 1695 Trinity Almshouses

The Trinity Almshouses were built in 1695 by the Corporation of Trinity House for “28 decayed Masters and Commanders of ships or ye widows of such”. The land for the almshouses was donated by a Captain Henry Mudd and they consist of two rows of cottages either side of a green, with a chapel at the far end of the green.

Stepney Green

For many years after construction, the almshouses were in a very rural Mile End. The following extract from John Rocque’s map from 1746 shows the almshouses in the centre of the map, surrounded by agricultural land and fields.

Stepney Green

The roads leading north from Mile End Road, either side of the almshouses have some interesting names. Dog Row on the left (now Cambridge Heath Road) and Red Cow Lane on the right (now Cleveland Way). Mile End Road leading through Mile End Old Town was a wide street here in 1746 as it is today.

Captain Fishers Ale House is at the end of Dog Row (I wonder how many of the decayed Masters and Commanders of ships frequented the ale house), and a Turn Pike could be found across Mile End Road opposite Dog Row.

The following engraving from Chamberlain’s History of London published in 1770 shows a rather impressive view of the almshouses as they appeared at the time.

Stepney Green

The almshouses have been under threat many times since 1695. The Corporation of Trinity House petitioned the Charity Commissioners for permission to demolish the almshouses in the 1890s, permission was refused.

They suffered bomb damage during the last war, but were repaired by the GLC, with the chapel being fitted with 18th century paneling from a house in Hammersmith.

Spitalfields Life has documented the recent threats to the almshouses

Where they reach Mile End Road, the two rows of cottages are terminated by rather ornate gable ends:

Stepney Green

A plaque on the gable ends records the origins of the almshouses:

Stepney Green

In the 1770 engraving, some rather impressive model ships can be seen on the gable ends. Model ships can still be seen today, however these are now fibreglass replicas with the original marble models being stored in the Museum of London.

Stepney Green

The almshouses feature in the top right of this mural by Mychael Barratt which can be found a short distance from the almshouses:

Stepney Green

There is also a statue to William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army which was unveiled in 1979:

Stepney Green

And rightly there is also now a 2015 statue to Catherine Booth to acknowledge their joint enterprise to setting up the Salvation Army:

Stepney Green

To show just how much can be found in this short distance along Mile End Road, further along can be found this entrance to a car park and a number of businesses, however the wall on the left records an example of the type of destruction that the Architects’ Journal was so concerned about.

In 1958, fifteen years before the article was published, the site of the wall was occupied by the house that Captain James Cook occupied for a number of years in the 18th century.

Stepney Green

The buildings either side of Cook’s house were not demolished, the apparent reason for the demolition was to widen the lane, but there was no reason then, or today, for a wider lane leading off here from Mile End Road.

It is a perfect example of the random demolition that took place in the decades after the 1940s that Cook’s house was destroyed, but the adjacent terrace of buildings was left in place, which is my next location:

Site 61 – Late 18th Century Terrace

Running to the east along Mile End Road from the location of Cook’s house is this row of late 18th century buildings:

Stepney Green

The terrace consists of a fascinating mix of different architectural styles and modifications to the buildings. In the following example, a bay window on the first floor extends over Assembly Passage – a long, cobbled walkway that leads from Mile End Road to Redmans Road.

Stepney Green

Across the road is the Genesis Cinema – a restored cinema (which originally opened in 1912) in a location that had been occupied by a pub, theatre and palace of varieties.

Stepney Green

A short distance along Mile End Road from the cinema is the next Architects’ Journal location:

Site 48 – Early 18th Century Group

A lovely group of four terrace houses – it took a while to get this photo without any traffic, there is a continuous stream of traffic along Mile End Road.

Stepney Green

Further along Mile End Road is:

Site 62 – Early 18th Century Group

A pair of large 18th century houses, set back from the road with small gardens between house and street.

Stepney Green

To the right of the buildings is a Topps Tiles warehouse and on the left is a small open space, then the new buildings on the site of the old Anchor Brewery.

The Architects’ Journal definition for this site was a ‘Group’ rather than a ‘Pair’ so I do wonder if there were additional houses in 1973 and this pair are all that remain.

The following location was not so lucky:

Site 45 – Mutilated Early 18th Century Group

To reach my next destination I turned off Mile End Road, a short distance along Stepney Green, along Hannibal Road to Redmans Road to see if this early 18th century group remained.

If my reading of the Architects’ Journal map was right, then the terrace should have been in this location – space now occupied by the expanded playground of the Redlands School.

Stepney Green

The houses in 1973 must have been in some state as the Architects’ Journal description was the rather strong “mutilated group”. I checked on the excellent London Metropolitan Archives Collage image archive and found this photo from 1971 of a terrace of houses along 42 to 48 Redmans Road – the space now occupied by the playground extension.

Stepney Green

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_397_71_642

The boards to the side of the doors on the central houses indicate that the houses were used in the clothing trade, with the board on the right advertising machinist vacancies.

I am sure this is the right location as to the left of the above photo, the edge of a post war terrace of flats can be seen, which are still there today as shown in my photo below.

Stepney Green

I assume the description of mutilated indicates that the buildings have been considerably changed from their original 18th century design and structure.

I then turned back along Redmans Road to the next location:

Site 47 – Early 18th Century Remains At Stepney Green

Mile End Road is very busy, with what seems like endless traffic streaming both into and away from the City. Walk the short distance to Stepney Green and the environment changes completely. I walked through Stepney Green on a cold grey day in February and a warmer, but still grey day at the end of April, when the trees were coming into leaf and bird song was louder than the distant traffic.

The main part of Stepney Green consists of two parallel streets with central gardens running between them. The eastern street is narrow and it is along this street where the majority of the older buildings are located.

In 1746, John Rocque’s map included what would become Stepney Green as a wide area running south from Mile End Road with houses mainly on the eastern edge. Houses with large back gardens with a large open field behind. In 1746 the area was called Mile End Old Town rather than Stepney Green.

Stepney Green

This is the view down the eastern side of the central green.

Stepney Green

The layout from 1746 can still be seen today as the 1746 map indicates a narrow street in front of the houses to the east, trees along the centre with a wider road on the western side – the same layout can be seen today.

The central gardens are tree-lined on either side with a pathway winding through the middle.

Stepney Green

The Architects’ Journal map shows houses on either side at the northern end of Stepney Green with additional houses marked on the eastern side. This distinctive terrace of four houses is along the northwest corner.

Stepney Green

The houses along the eastern edge tend to be larger, more individual buildings.

Stepney Green

One of the most important buildings in Stepney Green is number 37 – a magnificent Queen Anne house that was built in 1694. The  house was purchased by the Spitalfields Trust in 1998 who restored the house from institutional use to a rather magnificent family dwelling.

Number 37 Stepney Green:

Stepney Green

A closed pub on the western side of Stepney Green that has been converted to a private residence. Originally the Ship, then for a few years before closure, the Ship on the Green:

Stepney Green

The LMA Collage archive has a photo of the Ship as it was in 1953:

Stepney Green

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_399_F8790

The view across Stepney Green.

Stepney Green

In the above photo, the house to the left of middle has an interesting plaque above the door. The house must have been occupied by a dispensary at some point as the plaque records that the equipment for the dispensary was provided by a fund raised by the Mayor of Stepney in memory of King Edward VII, for the prevention of consumption.

The corner of Stepney Green and Cressy Place is occupied by Dunstan Houses, built by the East End Dwellings Company Ltd in 1899:

Stepney Green

The East End Dwellings Company was formed in the early 1880s by the vicar of St. Jude’s, Whitechapel, the Reverend Samuel Augustus Barnett. The intention of the Company was to provide housing for the poor, including those who other philanthropic housing companies often avoided, such as casual, day labourers.

Stepney Green

Another of the large housing developments by late Victorian philanthropic companies can be found towards the southern end of Stepney Green.

Stepney Green Court was built by the Four Per Cent Industrial Dwellings Company. The name of the company came from the plan that a four per cent return could be made on the investment needed to construct good housing which could be provided at an affordable rent.

Stepney Green Court was built in 1895.

Stepney Green

The building features some very ornate decoration:

Stepney Green

Towards the end of Stepney Green, where the central gardens and eastern side road have ended, is the remains of an interesting building.

On a small corner of the main Stepney Crossrail construction site are these brick walls and ornate entrance:

Stepney Green

These are the remains of a Baptist Chapel. The Crossrail Architectural and Historical Appraisal identifies the walls and door as the remains of a Baptist Chapel, possibly built around 1811.

The LMA Collage archive has a photo of the area showing that the remains of the Baptist Chapel were in a poor state in 1969.

Stepney Green

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_399_69_3379

All the buildings on the left have been demolished and the whole area is now a Crossrail construction site.

Entrance to the construction site:

Stepney Green

With the exception of the “mutilated early 18th century group” in Redmans Road the buildings listed in 1973 have survived well. The houses along Mile End Road face onto a very busy road  into the City, however turn off Mile End Road into Stepney Green and you can find one of those historic landscapes that London conceals so well.

It will be interesting to see what happens to the remains of the Baptist Chapel and the construction site, once work is completed – hopefully something that blends in with the area rather than bland apartment buildings that can be found anywhere across the city.

A the end of Stepney Green is the large churchyard and church of St. Dunstan and All Saints.

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Blake Hall Central Line Station And Greensted Church

Blake Hall Central Line Station and Greensted Church are a rather strange combination of subjects for a single post, however I hope the reason for combining these locations becomes clear.

Blake Hall Central Line Station

If you look at the following extract from a 1963 London Underground map, you can see the red of the Central Line extending at the top right corner from Epping, through North Weald and Blake Hall to Ongar.

This route out to rural Essex did not start as the Central Line. Built as a single track extension from Loughton to Ongar by the Eastern Counties Railway in 1865. This extension provided a direct route from Ongar, through Epping and Loughton, and then to central London, with fourteen trains a day making the full journey out to Ongar. The name of Blake Hall is after a country house with the same name, and as evidence of the very rural nature of the station’s location, the Blake Hall house is well over a mile away from the station. There appears to have been very little justification for a station at Blake Hall, however it may have been a requirement of the Blake Hall land owner, and a small goods yard for the distribution of coal and the collection of agricultural produce for delivery from the surrounding farms to the centre of London, probably also supported the provision of a station.

The extension of the Central Line, which had been delayed by the war, reached Loughton in 1948, with the original steam trains then continuing from Loughton on to Ongar. The route from Loughton to Epping was electrified in 1949, extending the Central Line further, and rather than leave the short route from Epping to Ongar under separate control, it was transferred to the London Transport Executive, but continuing to run steam trains.

In the 1950s, the line between Epping and Ongar was upgraded with a limited form of electrification allowing electric passenger trains to run, however goods trains continued to be powered by steam.

Due to its rural location, Blake Hall was the least used station on the London Underground network. The goods yard was closed in 1966 as the transport of goods moved from rail to road, and Sunday passenger services also ended in the same year.

Blake Hall continued as a stop on the Ongar extension of the Central Line, but was never going to attract the numbers of passengers which could justify keeping the station open.  Closure of the station was announced in 1981 and at the end of the October 1981 the last Central Line train stopped at Blake Hall and the station was closed on the 31st October 1981.

In August 1981 I took a trip out to Blake Hall to take a few photos of the station before closure, and last weekend I made another visit to see how the station had changed in the intervening 37 years.

At the Ongar end of Blake Hall station, there is a road bridge taking Blake Hall Road over the railway track. The bridge provides an excellent viewing point to see the station building, platform and track. This was my view of Blake Hall station in 1981:

Greensted Church

The same view in May 2018 (although at a slightly different angle as I had to move to a different point on the bridge as tree growth has completely obscured the view from the original position).

Greensted Church

The station buildings are now a private house. The platform is not the original platform. The original platform was demolished soon after closure, however the current platform was built in 2013 by the owner of the old station buildings. The new platform is much shorter in length than the original.

Another of my 1981 photos of Blake Hall station. I could not repeat this view today as trees have grown to completely obscure this view.

Greensted Church

In 1981 I also took some photos of the station entrance:

Greensted Church

Another view of the station entrance showing London Transport posters, advertising season tickets, and transport options to get to the Royal Tournament at Earls Court and Heathrow Airport.

Greensted Church

The old station building has been converted to a private home and the station approach road from Blake Hall Road is blocked by gates, so I could not get any photos of what the original station entrance looks like today.

This was the view in 1981 from the other side of the road bridge showing the track heading towards Ongar:

Greensted Church

The photo below shows the same view today. Note the additional rails in the above 1981 photo which provided the electrical supply to the trains.

Greensted Church

Although Blake Hall Station closed in 1981, the Epping to Ongar extension of the Central Line continued in operation until the 30th September 1994 when the line closed. Continuing losses and the lack of any future development in the area that would boost passenger numbers could not justify keeping the line in operation.

Soon after closure the line was purchased by a private company, with the intention of restarting train operation, however the failure to launch passenger trains led to the formation of the Epping Ongar Railway Volunteer Society who worked with the owner of the track and stations to restore the line between Ongar and North Weald to a point where diesel and steam trains could start running.

The Epping Ongar Railway Volunteer Society now run a weekend service on the line during the spring and summer months, and quite by chance whilst I was taking the photo of the station from the bridge, I could hear the unmistakable sound of a steam train in the distance, and a few minutes later I was treated to the sight of a steam train running again alongside Blake Hall Station.

Greensted Church

Heading towards Ongar:

Greensted Church

I did take photos in the 1980s of all the other stations between Epping and Ongar and the Central Line trains on this short extension, however I have only found the Blake Hall negatives – the challenges with a maximum of 36 photos on a single cassette of film. Hopefully I will find and scan my film of the rest of this small bit of the Central Line in rural Essex.

Full details of the train services now running between Ongar and North Weald can be found on the website of the Epping Ongar Railway.

The following map extract from OpenStreetMap shows the location of Blake Hall station (the orange circle) and how remote the station was from any major settlement. Blake Hall, the source of the name of the station is shown at the location of the red circle – it is some distance away. The route of the railway can be seen as the green line running left to right, to Chipping Ongar.

Greensted Church

The nearest village to the station is Greensted, and this is the location of my next stop, marked by the blue circle:

Greensted Church

Greensted Church is about one mile from Blake Hall station. When scanning my father’s photographs there were a few photos of the church that he took in 1953. There are no other local photos on the same strips of negatives, so I have no idea why he was here, did he travel out by the Central Line or on his bike.

Greensted Church is rather special, it is the only wooden church to have survived from before the Norman conquest, with the wooden walls of the nave dating from around 1060 – the oldest wooden Church in the world.

This is my father’s photo of the church in 1953:

Greensted Church

My photo from May 2018 is shown below. Greensted Church is identical in the two photos, as you would expect as the 65 years between the two photos is nothing compared to the 958 years that the nave of the church has been here in Greensted.

Greensted Church

There may have been a church on the site as early as the 6th or 7th century, however the Greensted Church of today developed in stages over the years.

In the photo above, the original Saxon nave of the church is the section to the right of the tower. The wooden logs forming the main part of the wall have been dated to around 1060. The logs were shortened and a lower brick wall added when decay in the logs was found during restoration of the church in 1848. The porch and windows in the roof are Victorian and the tiled roof is Tudor.

The chancel to the right of the nave, behind the tree has Norman origins, but is now mainly Tudor side wall and Victorian end wall.

In the photo below, the Tudor door, window and brickwork can be seen, with the remains of Norman flint walls on either side of the lower part of the wall. There are also, possibly, a couple of Roman tiles at the top of the flint on the left.

Greensted Church

There is no fixed date for the tower, it may be 17th century, or possibly earlier. One of the bells in the tower has the date 1618.

One of my father’s 1953 photos show the original logs of the side walls rather well:

Greensted Church

To construct the nave of the church, 54 oak logs were split lengthwise with the flat side on the interior of the church. Tongues of wood fixed into grooves running down the side of the logs were used to hold them together and seal gaps between adjacent logs.

The same view today:

Greensted Church

A view of the southern wall of the nave with the wooden logs. originally these would have extended into the ground and met a thatched roof at the top.

Greensted Church

The fenced grave in the above photo is thought to be a 12th century Crusaders grave.

The following photos show the interior of Greensted Church. The interior was much darker than the photos suggest. I was using a handheld camera so to avoid camera shake, I increased the ISO setting which has the effect of brightening the scene.

The following photo is from just inside the entrance porch, looking along the nave to the chancel at the end of the church. The flat side of the log walls can be seen running the length of the nave.

Greensted Church

The chancel:

Greensted Church

The view down the nave from the edge of the chancel gives a good idea of the wooden nave. Prior to the Tudor roof and Victorian windows, the nave would have been much darker,

Greensted Church

On the northern side of the church interior can be seen this strange, small piece of glass covering a hole through one of the logs:

Greensted Church

This is the other side of the hole – looking in from the outside of the church with one of the roof windows on the southern side of the church visible.

Greensted Church

The small window has been called a lepers squint – a small window in the side of a medieval church through which lepers could watch a church service, however this is very unlikely given the size of the hole and the very limited view of the church that it provides. It may well have been just a small window, or possibly a hole through which holy water could have been passed to a small font placed on the shelf cut into the wooden log. The shape of the hole in the log and the flat shelf makes this later use more likely.

The view from the rear of the graveyard of Greensted Church over the Essex countryside:

Greensted Church

The old Blake Hall Central Line Station is only a mile from Greensted Church so the trip out to Essex provided the perfect opportunity to visit the site of one of my earlier photos when the Central Line was still running out to this part of rural Essex, and the location of one of my father’s earlier photos. Two very different locations, but they are in their own way, fascinating landmarks on the Essex landscape.

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Kenwood House, Hampstead Heath

Last Monday, the early May public holiday, I headed to Hampstead Heath to visit Kenwood House.

I probably chose the wrong day to visit as it turned out to be the hottest early May holiday for decades, but the weather was fantastic, there was not a cloud in the sky, and along with what seemed like hundreds of other people, I headed along Hampstead Lane to enter the heath at  the rear of Kenwood House.

The reason for the visit was to take a couple of photos of Kenwood House as my father had done some years before.

Kenwood House sits on flat ground at the top of a long grass slope down to some rather large ‘ponds’. The land in front of the house has a short, steep fall, then a smoother fall down to the water, thereby reducing the height of the land in front of the house compared to the sides.

This has the effect of leaving arms of higher ground branching out from either side of the house and running either side of the central grassy slope. Standing on this higher ground provides a superb view of the house, which was obviously the intention of the landscape design.

It is from the higher ground to the east of the house that my father took the following photo in 1953:

Kenwood House

I could not take a photo from the same position as in the intervening 65 years there has been considerable tree growth, but I did find a gap a short distance further along to take the following photo:

Kenwood House

The first Kenwood House was built in the early 17th century by John Bill, a printer to King James 1st, who purchased the land in 1616. For the rest of the 17th century and early 18th century, the house would be brought and sold, modified and extended.

In tracing the name Kenwood, I have found several sources that give the original name as Caen Wood, including the use of this name during the 19th century. In Old and New London, Edward Walford writes:

“Pursuing our course along the Hampstead road, we reach the principal entrance to the estate of Caen (or Ken) Wood, the seat of the Earl of Mansfield. Though generally regarded as part and parcel of Hampstead, the estate lies just within the boundary of the parish of St. Pancras, and was part of the manor of Cantelows. It is said by antiquaries to form part of the remains of the ancient forest of Middlesex. Lysons is of the opion that the wood and the neighbouring hamlet of Kentish Town (anciently Kentestoune) were both named after some very remote possessor. There was, he says, a Dean of St. Paul’s named Reginald de Kentewode, and the alteration from Kentwode to Kenwood is by no means unlikely to happen. Mr Howitt looks for the origin of the syllable in the work ‘Ken’, a view. As, however, we have stated in previous chapters, the word Caen may, perhaps, be an equivalent to ‘Kaen’ or Ken, which lies at the root of Kentish Town, Kensington etc.”

In 1746 the house appears on John Rocque’s map, with the name being two separate words as Ken Wood House, with the name Ken Wood also being found across the wooded area running parallel to the ponds. Whether Ken or Caen the house takes the name from the woods. The house can be seen just above the centre of the following map extract. In 1746 the area in front of the house down to Hampstead Ponds was covered by formal gardens.

Kenwood House

The transformation of the house and grounds to the view we see commenced in 1754 when William Murray, the 1st Earl of Mansfield purchased Kenwood House.

Robert Adam was commissioned to remodel the interior of the house. This included a new northern entrance to the house at the end of the drive from Hampstead Lane, along with interior works.

Adam’s original designs can still be found in the interior of Kenwood House. His work included the build of a ‘Great Room’ or Library. This is a section through the end of the library:

Kenwood House

Which can still be seen today at the end of the Great Room:

Kenwood House

During the 1st Earl of Mansfield’s time, it seems that the formal gardens disappeared, and the land at the rear of the house was as rural as the rest of the heath. In the following view from 1781, drawn from a very similar viewpoint as my father’s photo, we can see animals being grazed on the land in front of Kenwood House. (Print ©Trustees of the British Museum)

Kenwood House

In 1793 Mansfield’s nephew, David Murray became the 2nd Earl and commissioned the Landscape Gardener Humphrey Repton to advise on changes to the land surrounding the house.  (Humphrey Repton was also responsible for the design of the gardens at the centre of Russell Square).

One of Repton’s recommendations was to move Hampstead Lane further away from the house to provide more privacy and to allow a longer, more impressive drive to be built between the house and road (you could do this sort of thing if you were an Earl).

If you compare the following two maps, the first being detail from Rocque’s 1746 map and the second being the 1940 Bartholomew Atlas, you can see that Hampstead Lane now curves much further away from the house:

Kenwood House

Kenwood House

With reference to the earlier discussion of the source of the name as Caen Wood, in the above 1940 map there is a Caen Wood Towers to the right of the map. This is a large Victorian house, now known as Athlone House.

Repton’s proposals can also be seen in the open area at the rear of the house as the land drops down to the lake. Repton’s proposals included planting strategically placed trees to hide the buildings at Kentish Town and also to create the impression that the valley sweeping down from Kenwood House leads directly towards the City of London.

In 1804, the book “Selected Views in London and its Environs” described the house and gardens using the name Caen:

“Caen Wood, the beautiful seat of the Earl of Mansfield, is situated on a fine eminence between Hampstead and Highgate, and its extensive grounds contain no small degree to enrich the neighbouring scenery. These, with the wood which gives name to them, contain about forty acres, and are laid out with great taste. On the right of the garden front of the house (which is a very noble mansion) is a hanging wood of tall spreading trees, mostly beeches; and on the left the rising hills are planted with trees that produce a pleasing effect. These with a sweet shrubbery immediately before the front, and a serpentine piece of water, render the whole a very enlivening scene. The enclosed fields adjoining to the pleasure-grounds contain about thirty acres more. Hornsey great woods, held by the Earl of Mansfield under the Bishop of London, join the estate on the north, and have lately been added to the enclosure.”

The reference to the ‘pleasure-grounds’ refers to the large, grassed area at the rear of the house which slopes down to the ponds.

The following view from 1792 is titled “The Earl of Mansfield’s at Caen Wood near Hampstead” and is another reference to the name Caen Wood, and is also a view from Hampstead Lane and shows why Mansfield agreed with Repton’s advice to move the lane further north to hide the house from the road.  (Print ©Trustees of the British Museum)

Kenwood House

My father had photographed Kenwood House a few years earlier to the photo at the start of this post. The following photo was taken in 1947 from the western side of the “pleasure-grounds”, looking across to the house.

Kenwood House

I tried to find the same location, however the tree growth on the western side of the house has been considerable and the following photo is my best approximation of the same viewpoint. Although the majority of the house is hidden behind the trees, the fencing that runs along the middle of both photos provides a good reference point.

Kenwood House

My father’s photo taken in 1947 was just after the war, when the house was occupied by military servicemen. The connection with the Mansfield family had ended a couple of decades earlier when the 6th Earl of Mansfield had sold of the contents of the house in 1922 and in 1925 Kenwood House was purchased by Edward Cecil Guinness, the 1st Earl of Iveagh. Edward Guinness had a large art collection and in 1929 the Iveagh Bequest stipulated that access to the house for the public should be free of charge, and the art collection maintained in the house.

These conditions still hold today with the house having passed through the London County Council, then to English Heritage who run the house today, with access free of charge and Iveagh’s art collection (with a number of additions) still being on display.

The view from the rear of Kenwood House looking down towards the ‘ponds’ and Ken Wood:

Kenwood House

Whilst the view from the rear of the house is mainly obscured by trees, a short distance to the east of the house there is a viewpoint where a panorama of the City across to the BT Tower can be seen shimmering in the haze.

The interior o the house has been carefully restored and the Iveagh art collection is on display in many of the rooms.

Kenwood House

There is an English Heritage Volunteer in each of the rooms, who, without exception, had an in-depth knowledge the house.

It was also much cooler inside the house, compared to outside, although talking to the volunteers. the view was that it was a very cold building to work in during the winter.

Kenwood House

We walked back to Hampstead Lane by a different path, and spotted a couple of boundary markers by the side of the path. The stone marker was very faded but I think may have been a St. Pancras boundary marker. The metal marker is for Hornsey Parish, and is numbered and includes the names of a number of parish officials.

Kenwood House

I have seen a number of these Hornsey Parish boundary markers before, but not this one – I should really have been keeping a list of numbers.

Hampstead Lane was busy with parked cars occupying every available space either side of the road and still plenty of people walking to the heath to enjoy the rather unusual weather for a public holiday. We left Caen Wood, or Ken Wood via Mansfield’s rerouted Hampstead Lane to walk back to Highgate for some much-needed refreshment.

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Bethnal Green’s Ordeal

At the end of the last war there were a number of booklets published by different Government Departments – the Metropolitan Police, the Post Office, British Railways and some of the London Boroughs. My father seems to have purchased a number of these as they were published, and this week I want to feature one of the booklets published in 1946 by a London Borough, with the title “Bethnal Green’s Ordeal”.

Bethnal Green's Ordeal

The booklet was published by the Council of the Metropolitan Borough of Bethnal Green and is a very slim, fifteen page account of Bethnal Green during the war. Written by George F. Vale, who had previously written a pre-war book about Bethnal Green, so I assume was a local resident. The booklet covers 1939 to 1945, but starts with preparations in 1938.

The booklet also includes a fold-out map showing the Borough of Bethnal Green with the location of major air raid incidents marked in red. Each dot represents a high explosive bomb, a parachute mine, flying bomb (V1) and long-range rocket (V2), but excludes incendiary bombs. (Click on the map to open a larger version)

Bethnal Green's Ordeal

Note in the bottom right hand corner the impact of the war on the population of Bethnal Green, with a population of 94,560 in 1939 falling almost by half to 50,641 in 1945.

Starting in 1938, we discover that 66,828 gas masks were issued to the residents of Bethnal Green on Wednesday and Thursday the 28th and 29th of September. This was followed by a period of comparative calm, until the war came to Bethnal Green with a vengance in August 1940:

“On Saturday night and in the early hours of Sunday morning, the 24th and 25th August 1940, the storm broke and we in Bethnal Green had some ideas of the dangers that lay ahead. Our baptism of fire consisted of several high explosive bombs each weighing 50 kilograms which were scattered over a fairly large area of the borough, extending almost in a line from The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Hackney Road to Lessada Street, east of the Regent’s Canal in Roman Road.”

The raids continued through September between Saturday 7th September and the 24th of September 1940,  when 95 high explosive bombs, two parachute mines and literally thousands of incendiary bombs fell on Bethnal Green.

“No part of the district escaped this terrible holocaust. Bethnal Green Hospital, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, the Central Library, Columbia market, the Power Station in Bethnal Green Road, the Hadrian Estate, the Burnham Estate, the Vaughan Estate and the Bethnal Green Estate were all hit, whilst the parish church of St. Matthew’s and St. Paul’s Church in Gosset Street were totally destroyed. On that night too, Columbia Market, which contained a very large public shelter was the scene of a very distressing calamity when a 50 kilogram bomb, by a million to one chance, entered the shelter by means of a ventilating shaft and caused extensive casualties to those sheltering.”

Thirty eight people were killed by the bomb on the Columbia Market shelter.

The booklet provides details that help understand Bethnal Green at the time. For example, there were still a number of stables across the Borough, and one of these, the Great Eastern Stables in Hare Marsh was hit and several horses were trapped and needed to be put down.

The composition of road surfaces amplified the impact of incendiary bombs as many were still covered by wooden blocks: “On the night of December 11th 1940, more fires were gaining hold on Bethnal Green than ever before. The area at the west end of Bethnal Green Road was a sea of flames, the wooden blocks which surfaced the road themselves catching fire and burning through almost to the concrete underneath.”

The booklet has a page covering the disaster at the Bethnal Green Underground Station. This was being used as a shelter and was one of the largest in London capable of accomodating 10,000 people.

The shelter was opened very rapidly in 1940 at the persistence of Herbert Morrison, the Minister of Home Security. The Sunday Mirror on the 6th October 1940 reported:

“The Man Who Gets Things Done –  Herbert Morrison, new Minister of Home Security, beloved by Londoners, is the man who gets things done.

Standing on the platform of the uncompleted Bethnal Green Underground station, 65ft below ground yesterday, he asked L.P.T.B and local council officials why it was not being used as a shelter.

He was told there were certain technical difficulties. ‘Is there anything to stop the people using it right away?’ he queried brusquely. He was told there were not. 

‘Then open it tonight’ said Herbert Morrison.

That is why several thousand men, women and children of the East End who last night found sanctuary in the station and tunnels – part of the new Tube extension not yet in use – bless the name of Britain’s ‘livest’ Cabinet Minister.

A.A. Shells were bursting in the sky during an alert when Mr Morrison and Admiral Sir Edward Evans arrived to inspect the station. Mr Morrison, after chatting with the experts, reached his decision about the opening of the station as a shelter in five minutes,

Council officials told him that everything was ready to make the shelter comfortable. 

Someone said the pit in the concrete track should be boarded over. ‘Let them sleep on the track’ replied Morrison.

Mr Morrison said in an interview: ‘You can tell the people we are going to utilise every inch of shelter we can find and we’re going to do it quickly’

The booklet describes the Bethnal Green Underground shelter:

“It had a sheltering capacity of 10,000; the highest figure reached was 7,000 in 1940-1 and in the summer of 1944 during the flying bomb raids. The Tube played a great part in the life – at night and in times of danger – of a great number of people in Bethnal Green; particularly the old people and mothers with children. It was provided with a canteen, a sick bay with a trained nurse regularly in attendance, a visiting doctor, a concert hall capable of holding 300 people and a complete branch public library consisting of 4,000 volumes.”

The worst civilian disaster of the war happened at Bethnal Green Underground station on the 3rd March 1943. The booklet records:

“On the night of the 3rd March the warning went at 8:17 p.m. and almost immediately hundreds of people were seen to be making for the shelter from all directions. It is estimated that in the first ten minutes after the sirens had sounded 1,500 people were admitted. Everything was normal and although the people were obviously anxious to get under cover there was no undue haste or panic, when suddenly, without any kind of preliminary warning, at 8.27 p.m. a salvo of rockets was discharged from a battery in Victoria Park. The shattering noise created by this operation undoubtedly caused the already anxious people to redouble their efforts to get into the shelter.

Unfortunately the reports of the guns were thought by many to be the sound of exploding bombs. At this critical moment it is said that a women, with a child, or a bundle, or perhaps both in her arms, fell on the stairs. So great was the pressure of the crowds behind her that in the matter of a few seconds there was a solid mass of bodies, piled up five or six deep, against which the people seeking admission and not knowing of the accident, still endeavoured to force an entrance.

On the instructions of the Home Secretary, Mr Herbert Morrison, a full enquiry into the circumstances of the accident was conducted by Mr. Laurence Rivers Dunne, M.C. one of the Magistrates of the Police courts of the Metropolis. The enquiry lasted from the 11th to the 17th March inclusive and in all eighty witnesses were examined. His final conclusions were:

(a) This disaster was caused by a number of people losing their self control at a particular unfortunate place and time.

(b) No forethought in the matter of structural design or practicable police supervision can be any real safeguard against the effects of a loss of self control by a crowd. The surest protection must always be that self control and practical common sense, the display of which has hitherto prevented the people of this country being the victims of countless similar disasters.”

The report appeared to put the blame on the people attempting to enter the shelter and their loss of control.

In reality, the entrance to the stairs down to the shelter were poorly lit, there was no central handrail and insufficient police or wardens to manage access to the shelter.

The Illustrated London News on the 13th March 1943 published an account of the tragedy and published photos of the entrance showing only side handrails and the general poor condition of the entrance.

Bethnal Green's Ordeal

It is easy to imagine how simple it would be for someone to stumble and fall in a crowd, and the impact that would have in such a confined entrance with no safety features.

Bethnal Green's Ordeal

The Illustrated London News report states that there were no bombs and no panic, and makes no mention of the salvo of rockets. An apparent contradiction to the report by Rivers Dunne, and despite the report stating that “No forethought in the matter of structural design ” could have avoided the tragedy, immediately after the tragedy, steps were taken to improve lighting, add handrails and barriers to shelter enhances, perhaps an acknowledgement of the contribution that the lack of these features had to the Bethnal Green tragedy.

173 people of all ages died on the 3rd March 1943 at the entrance to the Bethnal Green Underground shelter.

The entrance today – the woman fell at the bottom of the first flight of stairs:

Bethnal Green's Ordeal

A plaque recording the tragedy above the stairs:

Bethnal Green's Ordeal

A memorial to the disaster was completed in December 2017:

Bethnal Green's Ordeal

The memorial is located by the entrance involved in the disaster and represents the stairs down from the street, with the names of those killed carved into the side of the memorial:

Bethnal Green's Ordeal

There are 173 small conical light shafts cut into the  top of the memorial, and these are clustered closer together as the end wall is approached – representative of the way the tragedy unfolded:

Bethnal Green's Ordeal

The full names and age of those who perished are recorded on the upright support of the memorial. The repetition of the same surname, and the numbers of children involved shows the terrible impact that the tragedy must have had on individual family’s.

Bethnal Green's Ordeal

The memorial is a very fitting reminder of the tragedy at Bethnal Green Underground station in 1943.

Bethnal Green's Ordeal

One final comment on the tragedy comes again from the booklet and highlights the impact that war had on children:

“Some reference must be made to the work performed by the boys at the tragic Tube Shelter disaster. They helped with the injured and saw sights which probably no boy of such tender years has been called upon to experience. One boy was found by the Controller at the mortuary helping to unload the dead as they were brought from the scene of the disaster. The Controller said to him, ‘Don’t you feel somewhat upset by this?’ and the boy answered, ‘Well, Sir, I was sick when I first started, then I got over it, and anyway the job has got to be done.”

The remainder of 1943 and early 1944 was generally quiet in Bethnal Green, however Bethnal Green’s ordeal continued on the 13th June 1944 when a flying bomb fell in Grove Road. A total of twenty V1 flying bombs would fall on Bethnal Green.

These would be followed by the V2 rocket, with the first falling in Lessada Street in November 1944, the second in Parmiter Street in February 1945 and the final rocket just outside the borough boundary in Vallance Road in March 1945.

The booklet illustrates the effort needed by the Council and volunteers to respond to the bombing of Bethnal Green. The Borough Council had to arrange the clearance of 4,550 homes, providing storage space for the furniture from 1,350 and moving the furniture from 2,200 other homes to alternative accommodation.

Those too young to be conscripted into the armed forces were involved in a number of activities. Boys were used for multiple roles, acting as messengers, filling sand bags, installing blast walls at the London Chest Hospital, and it was the Scouts who erected the 5,000 bunks in the Bethnal Green Underground station shelter. Although evacuation of children from the city had started at the beginning of the war, the booklet records that a large number of children had drifted back to their homes and families in Bethnal Green. (This was also my father’s experience, as he only lasted three weeks after evacuation before returning home to the city).

The task of looking after and identification of so many dead civilians was a challenge for a single Borough. Of the 555 civilians killed during the war in Bethnal Green, there were 23 unidentified or unclaimed. These were buried in the communal grave at the City of London Cemetery, Manor Park.

Bethnal Green’s Ordeal also highlights the impact on the population of day to day precautions. For example, the black out came into full force on Friday 1st September 1939 and is recorded as being one of the war time restrictions that was the most difficult to bear. “It was easy to appreciate its importance during actual raids, but the hours of darkness were so many, especially during the long winter nights – many of which were raidless – that at times the depressing effects of the black-out were almost unbearable.” 

The booklet ends with two pages that provide some key statistics, and details of the organisations that developed within the borough to manage the impact of the war.

Bethnal Green's Ordeal

Bethnal Green's Ordeal

The memorial at the entrance to the Underground station is a reminder of the dreadful tragedy of one single event. The booklet is a reminder of the overall impact to one London Borough as summed up by the final paragraph in the booklet::

“Thus ends the story, perhaps rather fragmentary, of what an ordinary typical East End borough endured during the war years. It is hoped that it will serve as a reminder to the present generation and as a record for posterity of Bethnal Green’s Ordeal, 1939 – 1945.”

alondoninheritance.com

Curious Southwark

I have featured a couple of the sites from Hugh Pearman’s 1951 book Curious London in previous posts, XX Place and Goodwin’s Court, however these were individual places, so I thought I would take one of London’s “villages” as defined by Pearman and visit all six of the locations mentioned (if they still exist). I picked Southwark as I want to explore more of south London this year, so here is Curious Southwark.

The photograph page from the two pages on Southwark in Curious London.

Curious Southwark

From 1 to 6 they are:

  1. A pub in Newcomen Street
  2. The clocks on the church of St. George
  3. Shakespeare’s Globe
  4. Clink bollards
  5. The oldest outdoor statue in London
  6. Cardinal Cap Alley

I walked the sites covered by Pearman in a different order to the way he had numbered in the book. I started at the location furthest to the south and walked back towards the river, stopping at the sites as I came to them. The following map shows the locations, with my numbering to reflect the order in which I visited each site.

Curious Southwark

Starting at site number one to find:

King Alfred and Trinity Square

“The oldest outdoor statue in London is this one of King Alfred. Dating from 1395 it stands in front of Holy Trinity Church, Trinity Square. Originally standing in a niche on the outside of Westminster Hall, it was removed to its present site in 1821.”

So wrote Hugh Pearman to describe the statue in front of Holy Trinity Church and which led me to point 1 on the map where I discovered a magnificent church, one I had not walked past before, so for me, a new discovery.

Curious Southwark

The statue that Pearman refers to is in the middle of the garden in front of the church.

Curious Southwark

But is this King Alfred and is it really the oldest outdoor statue in London?

The church dates from 1824 (year of consecration), and there are two main theories as to the original source of the statue which appeared in front of the church when the gardens were being laid out in the 1820s.

The first theory is that the statue is one of eight medieval statues that were originally located on the towers at the north end of Westminster Hall. Five of these disappeared when Sir John Soane was re-working the front of the hall in the same years as the church was being built.

The second theory is that the statue was one of a pair made for the gardens of Carlton House by the sculptor John Michael Rysbrack in 1735. Carlton House was demolished in the late 1820s, again in the same decade as the construction of the church and the creation of the gardens.

The statue also appears to have had some extensive restoration, probably using Coade stone.

I suspect we will never know which of the two theories is correct.

This print from 1830 shows the statue in place in front of the church.

Curious Southwark

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: 306294

The church and surrounding streets are rather unique, both architecturally and in their ownership. The area is known as Trinity Village and is on land that originally formed the Newington Estate, owned by Christopher Merrick, who gave the land to the Corporation of Trinity House in 1660.

The estate was originally mainly used for commercial activities, however in the early 19th century the development of an estate with housing following a Georgian design commenced.

Trinity Church was part of the development, with the square that surrounds the church along with several streets that comprise the overall estate.

Trinity Church became redundant as a church in the early 1960s. In the early 1970s the London Philharmonic and London Symphony Orchestras were looking for new rehearsal space in London and commissioned a review to look for a suitable location among the redundant churches across London.

Trinity Church was identified as a suitable candidate which was confirmed in December 1972 when test rehearsals were held in the church. The buildings and land were purchased from the Church in 1973 and returned to the Corporation of Trinity House.

An extensive restoration of the church was then carried out and on the 16th of June 1975 the church was formally opened as rehearsal rooms and named the Henry Wood Hall with a concert by the London Philharmonic and London Symphony Orchestras. The name is after Henry Wood, who was associated with the Proms for almost 50 years and after a substantial donation from the Henry Wood fund to the restoration of the building.

The estate continues to be owned by the charitable arm of the Corporation of Trinity House with all rents being received by the charity.

The surrounding streets are magnificent and the following photos are from a walk around the square that surrounds the church:

Curious Southwark

Curious Southwark

Curious Southwark

The square is very peaceful. I walked round the square in the centre of the road to take photos and did not once have to move for a car.

One side of the square shows how close this unique part of Southwark is to London Bridge.

Curious Southwark

A final view of the church as I set off for the next location:

Curious Southwark

And here I found at the side of the street the Coat of Arms for Trinity House. dated 1883:

Curious Southwark

Whatever the truth of the origin of the statue, I was pleased that looking for the statue took me to a fascinating part of Southwark that I had not seen before.

It was then a short walk to point 2 on the map:

St George the Martyr, Borough High Street

“Local tradition says that because of the meanness of Bermondsey people when an appeal was made for funds to erect the clock tower of St. George’s Borough High Street, the face of the clock looking towards Bermondsey has always been painted black.”

When I reached the church of St. George I was disappointed to find that the body of the church was surrounded by scaffolding and plastic sheeting, but relieved that the tower was still fully visible so I could confirm Pearman’s statement about the clock.

Three sides of the church have the same clock faces which presumably have internal lighting and are therefore visible at night.

Curious Southwark

But the fourth clock face is very different.

Curious Southwark

This clock is over the main body of the church and is indeed facing in the general direction of Bermondsey, however you would need good eyesight to see the clock from Bermondsey and presumably not be at street level as the tower would have been obscured at that distance by buildings.

There are very many references to the same story as told by Pearman.

My father bought a book titled “London is stranger than fiction” by Peter Jackson in 1951. Jackson was an artist who started producing cartoons detailing London’s history in 1949 in the Evening News. He would continue until the paper closed in 1980.

There was a second book of his cartoons published later and I managed to buy a copy of this second book a couple of years ago.

In the first book, there is a mention of the clocks at St. George’s in the cartoon strip that appeared in the 28th December 1949:

Curious Southwark

The current clock dates from 1868 although with post war repairs due to the considerable damage suffered by the church during the war.

Three of the clock faces were lit by gas. The church’s website states that the fourth clock face was not lit due to the cost, and also relates the story of the residents of Bermondsey, but as an apocryphal story rather than a statement of fact.

The unlit clock is above the main body of the church and so not easy to see from many angles, whilst the three other clocks are all obscured so I can understand that from a cost perspective, lighting the three fully visible clocks was more important than lighting the fourth – but again, I suspect we will never know the true story.

Although the church is currently covered in plastic sheeting, the interior of the church is well worth a visit.

Curious Southwark

A church may have been on the site since the 12th century, however the current church dates from 1736, although the interior of the church has undergone many changes, including the restoration needed following severe bomb damage in the war. A number of high explosive bombs landed very close to the church and a V1 flying bomb hit a short distance down Borough High Street.

An archaeological dig in the crypt of the church found evidence of possible burials that predate the 18th century church along with evidence of the earlier church and of Roman occupation.

The interior today has a magnificent ceiling, originally dating from 1897, but with considerable restoration work in the 1950s. I doubt helium filled balloons were a consideration in the original design of the roof.

Curious Southwark

A gallery runs along the sides and above the entrance to the church were the organ is also installed:

Curious Southwark

Inside the church is a lead cistern dating from 1738, The cistern was originally installed in the northwest porch of the church to hold water from the supply from the Thames. It was moved to its current position and the wooden top that now covers the cistern is made from wood recovered from the old front doors that were destroyed by bombing.

Curious Southwark

Again, whatever the truth of the story behind the clocks, Pearman’s book took me to another church that I have not visited.

After leaving the church, I then walked north along Borough High Street to find my next location:

London Bridge and the King’s Arms, Newcomen Street

“London Bridge is falling down, my fair lady – so runs the old song. Well at long last just over a century ago, it did fall down, or rather was pulled down. Very few traces of it are left, but here on the wall of the King’s Arms in Newcomen Street is the coat of arms which once adorned the Southern Gateway of the old bridge.”

To find the King’s Arms pub, I turned off Borough High Street into Newcomen Street to find much of the street closed off for the repaving of the street. It will look really good when finished, but as with the church of St. George I do wonder why so many of the places I visit to photograph seem to be impacted by building works.

Curious Southwark

It was hard to get some decent photos due to the road works, however the subject of my visit was easy to find. The King’s Arms pub is a short distance down the street and extends slightly into the street resulting in a narrow length of roadway.

In the centre of the building frontage is the rather impressive coat of arms referred to by Hugh Pearman.

Curious Southwark

The coat of arms are from the gate built at the southern end of the old London Bridge and date from around 1728. The gate was demolished around 1760 and apparently the coat of arms were rescued and mounted on the pub.

Curious Southwark

The current pub building is clearly not from the mid 18th century, and was built in the late 19th century, hence the reference to King’s Arms 1890 at the top of the coat of arms.

At the bottom is a reference to King Street. The street has undergone a number of name changes over the years.

If you walk Borough High Street, there are a number of short yards off the street. This comes from the time when Borough High Street was the principle road leading south from London Bridge.

The following map extract is from a map of the Parish of St. Saviours Southwark by Richard Blome (late 17th century but published by John Stow in 1720). Newcomen Street was originally Axe Yard, then Axe and Bottle Yard, which is shown at number 27 in the map (I have ringed the yard and also included the key which includes number 27 at the bottom as the full key is on the left of the full map).

Curious Southwark

The yard was named after an inn of the same name and the yard was originally the yard of the inn.

The name changed to King Street in 1774. I cannot find confirmation of the reason why, but suspect it was due to the King’s Arms now being in the yard.

The final name change to Newcomen Street happened over 100 years later in 1879. The new name is after Elizabeth Newcomen who died in 1675 and owned property in Axe and Bottle Yard and along Borough High Street. In her will she left the income from the property to her nephew, then to his oldest son, then to the parish of St Saviour’s for the clothing, education and apprenticing of children within the parish.

Almost opposite the King’s Arms I found another interesting building, boarded up, but with some fascinating features and history.

Curious Southwark

A plaque adjacent to the door records that “John Marshall, founder of Marshall’s charity lived at a mansion house near this spot until his death in 1631 as did his father before him. Marshall’s Charity had its offices here until 1967.”

Curious Southwark

It never ceases to amaze me how many small charities there are in London dating back centuries and still providing benefits from the original founder’s gift and the Marshall Charity is a perfect example.

John Marshall died childless in 1631. His will appointed trustees to build Christchurch in Southwark and to use funds from his properties for “the Mayntenance and Continuance of the sincere preaching of God’s most holie Word in this Land for ever”.

Almost four hundred years later, the charity is still in operation and based on John Marshall’s original properties from his will was able to give £831,000 in grants in 2016.

The charity supports Christ Church, Southwark, as well as providing grants for the repair and restoration of parsonages and Anglican churches in Kent, Surrey and Lincolnshire. The charity also operates the Marshall’s Educational Foundation which provides financial assistance to students in north Southwark.

Curious Southwark

Brilliant that such a charity still exists and also a wonderful building which I hope will be sympathetically restored.

In complete contrast, in Newcomen Street I found this hairdressers. I have many themes for photography whilst walking the streets of London and this type of hairdresser is one of these themes – continuing on from the same theme my father started in the 1980s. See the post: Hairdressers of 1980s London.

Curious Southwark

Another theme is parish boundary markers. I have photographed hundreds of these and here is one on the corner of Newcomen Street – an 1844 marker for St. George the Martyr – the church I had just visited.

Curious Southwark

My next stop is in Park Street, a street which runs from Borough Market to Southwark Bridge Road, however before arriving at my next destination, at the junction of Park Street and Maiden Lane is this plaque recording the results of archaeology excavations just a little further north where the remains of buildings from the early years of Roman occupation were found including a warehouse.

Curious Southwark

Further along in Park Street I found my next location at number 4 on the map:

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Park Street

“Running parallel with Bankside is narrow Park Street. here, on the site where this plaque is affixed to a brewery wall, was Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. the Plaque shows the theatre, Old London Bridge and the neighbourhood as it was in those times. Every year at the time of Shakespeare’s birthday draws nigh, players, in costume, re-enact here, in the street, scenes from his plays.”

Curious Southwark

The brewery, which once ran to the east along Park Street is long gone, however the plaque has survived and is now mounted on a short length of wall in front of a semi-circular fenced area, behind which are a number of information panels which detail the history of the theatre and the excavations which located their remains.

Curious Southwark

It was in 1989 that the Museum of London carried out excavations on the site and found a small amount of remains of the theatre. Inset into the surface of the courtyard between the two buildings behind the plaque is a set of stones which show part of the circumference of the outer wall of the theatre.

Curious Southwark

The brewery that Pearman refers to as the original mounting for the plaque was the Anchor Brewery that ran from the current location of the plaque and to the east along Park Street, where we can find a plaque recording the history of the brewers who operated the brewery.

Curious Southwark

Park Street is still a reasonably narrow street as recorded by Pearman, although I suspect the re-enactment of Shakespeare’s plays near his birthday are not held in the street since the building of reproduction Globe Theatre.

This is where Southwark Bridge Road crosses Park Street.

Curious Southwark

And where the roof of the bridge has a beautiful set of inlaid bricks:

Curious Southwark

Leaving Park Street, I then walked towards the river, to find location number 5:

Clink Street Bollards

“The origin of the expression ‘clink’ for prison comes from the Clink prison that used to stand where is now the Borough fruit and vegetable market. This post is one of the many, still standing that mark the old boundaries.”

Curious Southwark

I found a number of these posts where Bank End meets Bankside, in front of the Anchor pub. Whilst they are all painted black unlike the one photographed by Pearman, they are off the same shape and have the same reference to Clink and the date 1812.

Curious Southwark

One in the corner alongside the bridge:

Curious Southwark

And a couple in front of the entrance to the Anchor:

Curious Southwark

Leaving a visit to the Anchor till later, I walked to the next location, number 6:

Cardinal Cap Alley

“Facing St. Paul’s Cathedral, from the South Bank of the Thames, is this little house with the odd sounding name of Cardinal Cap. At the time of the erection of the Cathedral, Sir Christopher Wren is said to have lived here and to have been ferried across, daily, to superintend the building of his masterpiece.”

I wrote an article about Cardinal Cap Alley and the house, 49 Bankside – the article can be found here.

The house was not home to Sir Christopher Wren, however it has a much more interesting history as documented by Gillian Tindall in her excellent book “The House by the Thames”  which I covered in the post, including my father’s photo of the house as it was in 1947.

This was the photo of the house and surrounding from my 2015 post.

Curious Southwark

Whilst some of the stories of Southwark in Curious London cannot be confirmed by evidence, they tell of the stories that have grown up across the city to add interest and a sense of history to the streets.

They also provided me with a new route to walk, and the discovery of a couple of places in London that I had not seen before. Trinity Square is fascinating and whilst I have walked past the church of St. George many times before, I have never had the incentive to look inside.

There are many more stories to tell of this small area of Southwark including the King’s Bench, White Lion and Marshalsea Prisons. A wall of the latter Marshalsea can still be seen near the church of St. George.

It is also still possible to make out the alleys and yards that once led off from Borough High Street – a legacy from the time when many of these would have been occupied by Inns, serving travelers before they reached the bridge leading into the City of London.

Curious Southwark is a fascinating place to explore.

alondoninheritance.com

Panorama Of London

In May 2015 I published the photos I took in 1980 from the viewing gallery at the top of the Shell Centre tower on the Southbank. The viewing gallery was closed for public viewing soon after opening, however I recently found a copy of a booklet titled Panorama of London that was part of the public visit to the gallery and provided fold out views, labelled with the sights to be seen, distances to towns surrounding London and heights of the hills on the horizon.

Walking around the viewing gallery with the booklet, visitors would have been able to pick out all the key features of the view before them. There is no date in the booklet to date publication, however I would estimate it to be from the mid to late 1960s. There is an introduction which provides some statistics on oil consumption with 1960 being the most up to date figure and 1975 being used as a date for expected future consumption.

The views also include Millbank Tower, built in 1963 so the booklet is not from the early 1960s.

The cover of the Panorama of London:

Panorama of London

The booklet starts with an introduction to the Shell Centre complex, informing the visitor that the viewing gallery is on the 25th floor of the Shell Centre tower, 317 feet above sea level. The tower block in total is 351 feet high, just 14 feet lower than the cross of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

The booklet has four fold out views, corresponding to the view from each side of the tower. Each view consists of a transparent layer, labelled with the sights to be seen, which overlays a detailed drawing of the view.

So, lets commence a walk around the viewing gallery, starting with the view to the south-east and east from the rear of the tower. (Click on the pictures to open much larger versions).

In this view, Waterloo Station occupies much of the area immediately to the frount, however moving from the east we can see Southwark Cathedral, Tower Bridge, Guy’s Hospital, the Old Vic Theatre. Elephant and Castle, and the Imperial War Museum.

On the horizon, Shooters Hill at 425 feet and a distance of 8.5 miles away, Knockholt Pound at 587 feet is 17.5 miles away and Tatsfield Gt. Farm at 784 feet is at 16.5 miles.

Panorama of London

Panorama of London

Moving to the side of the tower, we can look towards the north-east and the north. Here we can see the City of London. Bankside Power Station with a smoking chimney is on the south bank of the river. Cranes can still be seen along the south bank of the river between Waterloo and Blackfriars Bridges. St. Paul’s Cathedral is still the highest building in the City. The view moves to the north passing through Shoreditch, Islington, Holborn and to part of Bloomsbury.

On the horizon is Fox Hatch at 338 feet and 20 miles distant. Epping Forest is 14.5 miles away, and we can see Alexandra Palace on the horizon.

Panorama of London

Panorama of London

We now move to the part of the viewing gallery that is at the frount of the Shell Centre Tower, looking from the north-west to the west. On the north-western edge is Senate House of the University of London. We then come to the G.P.O. Tower (now the BT Tower), then Charing Cross Station and Hungerford Railway Bridge, Nelson’s Column, the three parks of St. James’s, Green and Hyde, then the Albert Hall and on the far west, the start of the museums of Kensington with the Victoria and Albert.

On the horizon is Elstree at 478 feet and 12 miles, Harrow Weald at 486 feet and 18 miles, and the Kensal Green Gasholder at 5 miles.

Panorama of London

Panorama of London

The final view in this Panorama of London is to the south-west and south, from the side of the Shell Centre tower. The Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey are across the river, and moving to the south, the chimneys of Battersea Power Station are smoking. We then come to Millbank Tower, Vauxhall Bridge, Lambeth Palace and the Kennington Oval.

On the horizon is Windsor Great Park at 20.5 miles, Oxshott at 257 feet and 15.5 miles, Coulsdon at 468 feet and 12.5 miles and finally Woldingham at 868 feet and 16.5 miles.

Panorama of London

Panorama of London

In 1980 I walked around the Shell Centre viewing gallery and created my own Panorama of London series of black and white photos of the view. Following the same route as taken in the Panorama of London booklet, I am starting at the rear of the tower, looking towards the south-east:

Panorama of London

Looking over the tracks that lead into Waterloo Station:

Panorama of London

Then round towards the east with the rail tracks running through Waterloo East and onward towards London Bridge.

Panorama of London

Now with the City coming into view with at the time the tallest tower in the City, the NatWest Tower, completed in 1980 and now known as Tower 42.

Panorama of London

In the following view, Stamford Street is leading off towards the east. Kings Reach Tower is adjacent to Stamford Street, completed in 1972 and was the home of IPC Media, the publishing group behind a diverse range of publications from Loaded and NME to Country Life and Marie Claire. The tower has now been converted to apartments with several floors added, and renamed the South Bank Tower. I took photos from the top of this tower in the late 1990s.

Panorama of London

At the junction between Waterloo Bridge, Stamford Street, Waterloo Road and York Road was this large roundabout, now the home of the BFI IMAX cinema.

Panorama of London

Looking over towards the north-east and the towers of the Barbican come into view.

The tall building closest to the camera is the London Studios – ITV’s main home in London. Built in the early 1970s as the home for London Weekend Television (seems strange now remembering the Friday evening switch over to LWT). The studios here had been hosting some of ITV’s daytime output (now moved to the remaining studios at the old BBC Television Centre at White City) and large Saturday night shows. The site is about to be redeveloped with new offices for ITV, a set of smaller studios so that the daytime TV shows can return, and (you have probably guessed) a much taller residential tower which will be built on the site of the existing tower.

Panorama of London

Moving along in my Panorama of London, this is the view over Waterloo Bridge.

Panorama of London

The white building adjacent to the river is the old Shell-Mex House building and moving back, towards the left is Centre Point, at the top of Charing Cross Road.

Panorama of London

Charing Cross Station and the BT Tower.Panorama of London

Slightly further to the left.

Panorama of London

The Ministry of Defence building along the Embankment to the right.

Panorama of London

And finally the Palace of Westminster. The London Eye would now be obscuring much of this view.

Panorama of London

The skyline of London is rapidly changing. For Shell Centre, the office blocks surrounding the base of the tower have been demolished and new apartment blocks are being built around three sides of the original tower.

It would be interesting to see if I can get back up to the viewing gallery in two years time for a 40 year then and now set of photos, as the view will be very different to the Panorama of London and my 1980 photos.

alondoninheritance.com

St. Dunstan And All Saints, Stepney

For this week’s post, I am returning to my project to track down all the sites listed as at risk, in the 1973 Architects’ Journal issue on East London. You can find my first post explaining the thoughts behind the 1973 publication and the changes that were taking place across East London here.

I had a day off work on a freezing cold day in February, and tracked down the locations in Bethnal Green and Stepney. When I started working on a post, it was looking like a very long post, and the last week has been a very busy work week, so I will cover the full walk in a future post, and today explore the church of St. Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney.

The following is an extract from the 1973 Architects’ Journal map covering Bethnal Green and Stepney. The church is number 46, in the lower right corner of the map and is listed as “Medieval church of St. Dunstan’s – original parish church of Stepney”.

St. Dunstan and all Saints

To find the church, I had walked along Mile End Road, then walked through Stepney Green (number 47 in the above map) and along to Stepney High Street where St. Dunstan and All Saints can be found within a large graveyard, although today there are not that many graves to be seen.

Approaching the church from the north:

St. Dunstan and all Saints

The church of St. Dunstan And All Saints is a very old church. A church was rebuilt on the site (implying there was an earlier church here) in the 10th century and later dedicated to St. Dunstan, the 10th century Bishop of London. Until the chapel that gave Whitechapel its name was built in the 13th century, it was the only church that served the whole of the parish of Stepney.

I have read a number of different interpretations of how and when the church received its dedication, they are generally slightly different, however one common theme seems to be as follows. The dedication to St. Dunstan was possibly made by the end of the 13th century and the full dedication to St. Dunstan and All Saints was made in 1952, apparently in recognition that the original dedication may have been to All Saints prior to St. Dunstan.

The church was rebuilt in the 15th century, and as with many other churches, was subject to changes in the Victorian period which included re-facing the exterior walls of the church.

Above the main entrance door are two carvings which both represent connections with the church.

St. Dunstan and all Saints

On the right is a carving of the devil and some tongs. This refers to a story about St. Dunstan pulling the nose of the devil with some red hot tongs. This was one of the noses illustrated by George Cruikshank in 1834 in his Chapter on Noses. The illustration of St. Dunstan and the devil is at lower right:

St. Dunstan and all Saints

The carving on the left is of a ship and refers to the long association of the church with the sea and sailors. An information panel at the entrance to the church refers to the church being the mother church of the East End, and also being known as the Church of the High Seas. Many of the prints showing the church over the centuries show a very large flag, the red ensign, flying from the top of the tower (the flag flown by British passenger and merchant ships) and the church allowed the registration of those born at sea into the parish of Stepney.

The location of the church is interesting. In the following map from 1720, the church is shown in the middle of the map, surrounded by open fields.

St. Dunstan and all Saints

Mile End is to the north and to the south are the first streets that make up Limehouse and Shadwell. I have read some sources that claim the church initially start as a small chapel on a track between the Bishops Hall (just to the north of Mile End) and the river, however I can find no firm evidence to back this up. The origin of the large graveyard can be seen in the area surrounding the church and bounded by streets.

Early street and place names are always fascinating. Look to the right of the church and you will find “Rogues Well” and a Rogues Well Lane”. It would be interesting to know the origins of these names

In 1746 John Rocque was still showing the area as rural. The church is to the left, unfortunately on the edge of a page so I could not cover the same area as the 1720 map.

St. Dunstan and all Saints

In the 26 years between the two maps, Rogues Well has changed name to Rhodes Well, although I wonder if the name had really changed and in making one of the maps, the name was heard or recorded incorrectly – I have always wondered how mapmakers identified the names of places and streets outside of the central City. There would not have been any street signs and names must have been written down based on recording the names given by the local population.

In Rocque’s map there is also what looks like a small stream leading off from the field at the end of Rhodes Well and heading to the right. Possibly one of the many small springs, wells and streams that disappeared underneath the dense streets and buildings that would soon follow.

In the 100 years after Roque’s map, the fields surrounding the church of St, Dunstan would disappear, however the church has kept its large graveyard which we can see covering the same area as shown in the two 18th century maps.

Burials ended in the main graveyard in 1854 and a small extension was used for a further two years. The graveyard became a public garden in 1886 after the majority of the gravestones had been cleared.

An article in the Tower Hamlets Independent and East London Advertiser on the 19th October 1901 gives an indication of the number of burials there must have been in the graveyard as in 1625, 2,978 people died of plague, with a further 6,583 in 1665 within the parish of Stepney. A good many would presumably have been buried within the graveyard as well as the thousands of Stepney residents over the centuries.

The interior of the church is magnificent and surprisingly bright given that it was such a dull day outside.

St. Dunstan and all Saints

There was a major fire at the church in October 1901. The same newspaper article mentioned above started with the headlines “A Stepney Disaster – Parish Church Burnt Down – immense Damage”, however in a letter on the same page, the rector of St. Dunstan’s tried to correct some of the stories about the damage, whilst also appealing for funds:

“The Rector’s Appeal – So many are interested in this ancient church, that I am sure you will allow me to state exactly what happened. The church is not burnt down; the energy of commander Wells and the efforts of our excellent fire brigade have saved us from that, though the fire, the origin of which is unknown, had obtained a strong hold before it was discovered.

Our loss briefly is that the roof of the chancel and nave, the organ and vestries and Chapter House and their contents.

Of this our beautiful fifteenth century roof, and seventeenth century organ front and the old prints in the vestry are irreplaceable.

But the plates and requisites are intact, while the tower and the whole of the interior, i.e. walls with monuments, seats etc, are practically unhurt.

I see it said that we are insured for £11,000, and that this will cover all the damage. The first statement is true; I wish the second were, for while £11,000 would more than cover all damage, much of that sum is unavailable, e.g. insurance on the tower, seats, plate etc. , and I am already learning that there are many expenses which insurance cannot cover.

A considerable sum, possibly some £2,000 will be required over and above the insurance. Such a demand comes at a terribly awkward time.

Less than two years ago £5,000 was spent on the church and only a month ago we commenced the completion of our second church, St. Faith’s for which £1,800 is still required.

The ordinary expenses of such a parish as this, with its population of 24,000 in the heart of the East End, always taxes our resources to the very utmost.

I can, therefore, confidently appeal to the generosity of the public not to allow this fresh and unexpected burden to weigh down those who already have their hands full, and their pockets empty. I am, sir, yours faithfully, Arthur Dalton, Rector of Stepney.”

Luckily the funds were raised and the church restored:

St. Dunstan and all Saints

St. Dunstan’s survived the blitz, although there was serious damage to the surrounding area, given the proximity of the church to the river and docks.

Housing was urgently needed and towards the end of the war a number of prefab homes were built on some of the bombed land surrounding the church:

St. Dunstan and all Saints

Prints from the 18th century show the size of the church, that it appears to have had a lantern at the top of the tower, and a really large flag.

St. Dunstan and all Saints

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: 23832

And in this invitation to a service in 1746, the flag looks to have grown:

St. Dunstan and all Saints

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: 19444

The invitation is to a service at the church to meet the Stewards of the Stepney Feast, and after the service to accompany them to the Feast Room near the church.

The Stepney Feast appears to have been a society, comprised of members from the maritime trades who collected money to “apprentice out orphans, and the children of the poor, to marine trades”.

Note the limitation on servants at the very bottom of the invitation – charity would only extend so far.

The connection between the church and the sea can be seen in the following photo from 1924. Preparations are being made for Harvest Festival and this included the hanging of fishing nets in the church.

St. Dunstan and all Saints

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: 302170

Inside the church today are a range of memorials, including these from the 17th century:

St. Dunstan and all Saints

St. Dunstan and all Saints

St. Dunstan and all Saints

The first memorial above is to a Mariner and the trade given in the following memorial is Rope Maker. If you return to the 1720 map, you will see to the left of the church “Rope Grounds”. These would have been lengths of land needed to stretch out ropes during their manufacturer.

St. Dunstan and all Saints

In the 1746 map, there is a track shown across the graveyard to the south east corner. This track is still in place today to provide the southern exit from the church. Trees form the boundary to the track, it must look magnificent when they are in full leave on a sunny day.

St. Dunstan and all Saints

There is so much to find when walking these streets and on exiting the graveyard to the south, I found these rather lovely houses immediately opposite.

St. Dunstan and all Saints

They are an example of the many houses built by the Worshipful Company of Mercers. The plaque at the top records the original build date of 1691 and the lower plaque records that they were rebuilt in 1856.

St. Dunstan and all Saints

As I was standing in front of the houses taking the above photos, one of the residents left his house to walk to the road. He turned to talk to me, I was worried he was about to complain about me standing in front of his house, taking photos. Instead he smiled and said “lovely houses aren’t they” before hurrying on.

I can only agree, but I wonder if he realised that these were some of the first houses to be built around the church and that this little row of houses (before the 1856 rebuild) would be shown on the 1720 map:

St. Dunstan and all Saints

I will complete my Stepney walk, tracking down the sites listed in the 1973 Architects’ Journal, in a later post – but for now I am pleased to have explored one of East London’s oldest churches.

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